Russian Life Imitates Dystopian Art
The state in Russia has always tended toward absolutism, and its coercive and penal arms have rarely wielded as much power as they do now. Since launching his invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has combined neo-Stalinism and religious fervor, with all of the absurdities that this entails.
MOSCOW – The Kremlin rarely surprises me. When I read George Orwell’s 1984 in the 1970s, at age 10, I immediately recognized our Soviet life. By then, everyone was used to the state insisting that everything was becoming “better and more joyous,” as Stalin had claimed in 1935 when people were dying of hunger and being imprisoned for fictitious crimes.
Later, in the 1970s, when Leonid Brezhnev was touting the Soviet model of “developed socialism,” some 300,000 Soviet citizens were defecting to the West. Yet as large as that number seemed at the time, it pales in comparison to today’s figures. The mass exodus following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 is more reminiscent of the one triggered by the 1917 Bolshevik revolution. Between 1917 and 1922, up to three million aristocrats, landowners, doctors, engineers, priests, and other professionals fled the new dictatorship of the proletariat.
Today, even modest estimates suggest that around 800,000 people – IT specialists, journalists, writers, scientists, actors, directors, intellectuals – left Russia in 2022 alone. As in the past, these professionals could see the writing on the wall. They left to escape Vladimir Putin’s increasingly repressive security apparatus. The state in Russia has always tended toward absolutism, and its coercive and penal arms have rarely wielded as much power as they do now.